So much for having the healthiest spring training of any team in the National League Central.
Just when the Cubs pitched their way to a winning record for the first time in two seasons, they lost two key pitchers to injuries – a double dose of injury news on the day that only an update on Andrew Cashner’s shoulder was expected.
Turns out both fifth-starter Cashner (shoulder strain) and fourth starter Randy Wells (forearm strain) are headed to the disabled list after just one start each this season – both likely facing a month or more of down time.
The good news, say the Cubs, is that MRIs done Tuesday on both pitchers revealed no structural damage in either case and surgery has not been raised as a possibility in either case.
“In this day and age when you hear about people shut down for a year, this could be a lot worse,” manager Mike Quade said. “And this will be fine, and I’m expecting 3-4 weeks and we’re back in action. Which is a lot better than 3-4 months.”
The Cubs medical staff cautions there is no timetable on either injury. Wells and Cashner are both expected to undergo rehab and therapy for the next two weeks before so much as throwing a baseball – at which time their prognoses are to be re-evaluated.
The Wells news came as a surprise, after Wells reported no problems throughout the spring and looked strong in Monday’s win against Arizona. But discomfort on the underside of his forearm that first arose in his final tuneup start of the spring bothered him slightly after Monday’s start and worsened into Tuesday, he said.
He said he was relieved by the results of the MRI that said nothing in the elbow was affected and that his injury was limited to the muscle. “For sure,” Wells said. “You never want to think about the negative, but was in the back of my mind.”
Meanwhile, the Cubs plan to recall Casey Coleman from AAA Iowa, probably to make Sunday’s start in Milwaukee.
Plans haven’t been finalized for filling the fifth spot in the rotation, but one option being discussed is preparing reliever James Russell – who was briefly in the running for a starting job this spring – to start Tuesday in Houston.
The Cubs plan to use scheduled off days each of the next three Thursdays to lessen to skip a starter when possible and lessen the load on the designated fifth guy.
“The way I see it now in the next three weeks, you’re looking at a line of three Tuesdays where we need [a fifth starter],” Quade said. “And whether that’s Russ coming out of the chute or somebody takes the bull by the horns in the minor leagues and establishes themselves – three times in three weeks, that’s better than five time in three weeks or whatever.”
The injury news is a gut punch to a team that hoped to pull off a surprise in the NL Central after last year’s fifth-place finish – and that spent seven weeks of spring avoiding injuries to key personnel that befell division rivals St. Louis (Adam Wainwright, season-ending elbow surgery) and Milwaukee (Zack Greinke, cracked ribs).
“Unbelievable,” general manager Jim Hendry said. “That’s the way this game is. It’s become such a matter of health. …
“You have to overcome adversity to be in the hunt sooner or later during the year. We’re just going to get ours a little unexpectedly in April.”